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Small students learn in a big way with ‘Kids at Play’

SFBFS Volunteer Elitas Schmidling with children from the ‘Kids at Play’ program.

After moving to the United States from Zambia, Africa in 1999 to pursue a career in non-profit work, Elitas Schmidling was anxious to dive head-first into her community.

As a Human Services major at the University of Phoenix and founder of the Mazzy Flow Foundation (which is still in its infancy), Elitas was hoping to gain insight into effectively operating and managing non-profit organizations. Seeking internship opportunities, Elitas discovered Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services’ (SFBFS) Parent Education program at the Saca Community Learning Center (Saca CLC).

Learning more about SFBFS and the Parent Education program, Elitas was shocked when she discovered the sheer number of volunteers who support the organization. Excited to become involved, Elitas found that the Parent Education hours flexible enough to maintain her day-job at Verizon, continue developing her non-profit effort, attend classes and volunteer at SFBFS in-between.

“It’s incredible to see!” Elitas exclaimed. “An organization with over 5,200 volunteers a year. It’s the most successful non-profit organization I’ve come across in Sacramento.”

When Elitas began her internship in the Parent Education program this past December, she originally provided support to the program through volunteering with client intake, in the Baby Boutique and shadowing Mireya Estrella, Parent Education Program Manager at SFBFS’ Saca CLC. Finding that her duties in the Parent Education program aligned perfectly with the requirements of her Human Services’ internship, Elitas thoroughly enjoyed assisting Mireya. However, after a few weeks, Elitas would come to take on an even larger commitment.

Using an idea she had for an education program geared toward pre-kindergarten students, and with the encouragement of Mireya, Elitas created and facilitated her own three-week toddler learning group affectionately dubbed Kids at Play.

“Elitas took small idea and created an entire educational program based around letter, number, shape and color recognition,” explained Mireya. “Every week, children learn all about themselves, nutrition, exercise and the world around them. Kids at Play successfully launched January 17 with ten children enrolled. Elitas eased into the program like a veteran volunteer.”

Though she will complete her internship by the end of February, Elitas has agreed to stay with SFBFS and facilitate the Kids at Play group through the end of June.

Upon completing her Human Services degree, Elitas is hoping to use the experience gained through her internship at SFBFS to expand the Mazzy Flow Foundation and open a community health clinic in her home country of Zambia.

“It was amazing that SFBFS gave me the opportunity to start my own program. The love you get back from the kids and seeing how willing they are to learn is an extraordinary experience,” Elitas offered. “It’s such a great feeling to give more than money back to the community- to know we’re giving them education.”

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